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Hope Born in Haiti

Hope is a marvelous gift of Easter.  In the words of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, "There in the wasteland where you had not thought to find life, you will suddenly find the signs of God's renewal, blooming and flowering and bursting forth from the dry earth with great energy, God's energy.  In the driest month, you find on the branches' tips new shoots of life.  Under the rock in the desert will sprout a flower, a delicate bud of the new life."

Now this is not just some pleasant spring-time thought.  It is a vision of God's purposes for the world.  Jean-Bertrand Aristide can tell you about it.  Before he was elected president of the country of Haiti, he was a parish priest in Port-au-Prince.  The military dictatorship hated him, primarily because he spoke about joy, and peace, and justice, and food for all.

One Sunday morning in 1988, as Father Aristide was preaching at mass in his church, a riot broke out.  A number of government soldiers stormed the gates of the church.  Paid assassins scaled the walls and set the place on fire.  With knives and bullets, they cut down unarmed people who came to church that morning to hear a sermon about joy, and peace, and justice, and food.

When we were there last summer, we heard a story about something remarkable that happened that day.  In the midst of the riot, a young pregnant woman was stabbed by the soldiers.  They wanted to do the worst damage they could.  She lay there bleeding, fearful for her unborn child.
The assassins rampaged through the church.  Somehow, in the midst of the insanity, the woman was taken to a hospital.

Father Aristide says, "Everyone in Port-au-Prince had heard the story of the attack against the young mother and the unborn child.  And that night, after the massacre, the criminals went to the university hospital, searching the maternity wards.  They heard the woman had survived, and they wanted to finish her off, to show the people that there was no hope in the world." They search the maternity wards, but they never found that woman.

By some miracle of God, she had been taken to another hospital far away.
And soon, she gave birth to a baby girl by caesarean section, a baby girl slightly wounded, but more or less healthy and undamaged.  And she named that child Esperancia, which means "Hope."

Father Aristide says, "The baby's birth showed that the assassins, the criminals, the police, the Army, the president and all the president's men could not put an end to Hope in Haiti; they could not destroy us with their knives and spears .  .  .  The child called Hope is the new generation of my country."

- William J. Carter

The story and the quotes are taken from Jean-Bertrand Aristide, In the Parish of the Poor: Writings from Haiti, trans.  Amy Wilentz (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Press, 1990) 64-65.



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